Photo Credit: Derhai (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

“I will be interested to see a justification to spending school money for this event. This is akin to bringing a leader of the Klan or ISIS to the school.” (Emphasis added).  – Craig Hennigan, Truman State University

What happens at schools when administrators learn that YAF is bringing a conservative speaker to address students directly on campus? Often, administrators use their position of authority to construct burdensome restrictions that make it difficult for students to follow through with their event. They usually do this by imposing exorbitant security fees on students attempting to host a conservative speaker, relegating conservative speakers to obscure venues on campus, prohibiting students from advertising their events, or by banning a particular speaker altogether.

But what YAF’s Censorship Exposed! project found at Truman State was different. University administrators placed a qualification on the First Amendment rights of conservative students. Conservative viewpoints can only be presented if their liberal counter perspectives are presented too. The double standard is outrageous!

After learning that YAF was sponsoring Robert Spencer to speak at their school, Truman State administrators crafted a plan to drown out Spencer’s conservative ideas. Not only did the University pay Faizan Syed, the Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MO), to counter Robert Spencer’s conservative ideas, administrators scheduled Syed to speak on the same day and in the same room directly before Spencer. They even created a scholarship contest to encourage students to attend Faizan Syed’s presentation too.

Administrators Organized and Paid for CAIR-Approved Lecture

When YAF speakers come to campus, it is the result of our students’ hard work. YAF students spend weeks planning, coordinating event logistics, and promoting these events to their campus. And their efforts are often compounded by the ridiculous red tape that only state-funded institutions can create. Yet in spite of all of this, YAF students host the most successful campus lectures in the Conservative Movement. Often these lectures are standing room only.

Compare this to Truman State. After learning that YAF was sponsoring Robert Spencer to speak directly to Truman State students, the University’s vice president of student affairs, Dr. Lou Ann Gilchrist, proposed a plan. She wrote, “If Mr. Spencer is being supported by FAC, I will offer the same amount of money (using development funds so we don’t have issues with using State funding) to the student Islam association to bring in a speaker with counter views.”

This is troubling for many reasons.

Notably, it was the administration that hatched a plan to drown out Spencer’s conservative ideas. Emails show school administrators contacted the Muslim Student Association (MSA), first speaking to the group’s vice president and then to its president, to create an event to counter Spencer’s ideas. Reza Aslan, Stephen Prothrow, and Wajahat Ali (whose honorariums would have been as much as three to seven times that of Spencer’s) were considered as potential speakers. The administration contacted Faizan Syed about speaking at Truman. The administration even promoted the event by sending out an announcement to the student body at Truman State.

Also, the University paid for this event out of the Office of Student Affairs. As previously mentioned, Dr. Gilchrist even suggested using development funds to pay Faizan Syed’s honoraria “so we don’t have issues with using State funding.” In comparison, Robert Spencer’s honorarium was paid through the proper channel – the Funds Allotment Council (FAC), which is associated with the student government and grants “money to student organizations that wish to host events on campus.” In other words, student fees paid for Spencer’s honoraria.

Administrators Created a Financial Incentive to Attend CAIR lecture

No school has ever created a scholarship contest to incentivize students to listen to our conservative speakers. YAF speakers speak to full auditoriums in spite of the numerous roadblocks that administrators set up to keep conservative ideas off campus.

However, Truman State administrators created a scholarship contest to incentivize students to attend Faizan Syed’s lecture. It was not until after the University’s administration learned that Robert Spencer was coming that they decided to invite a speaker with counter views and to incentivize student attendance by creating a $500 scholarship contest for students who would attend both presentations.

The creation of this scholarship contest had nothing to do with listening to both sides of an argument. The purpose was to drown out a conservative viewpoint.

“Extra Credit” for protesting Spencer

Emails show Truman State faculty’s hostility toward Spencer too. Administrators were aware that faculty were “offering extra credit and coordinating opportunities to make signs, etc.” In an email to FAC, one instructor described Robert Spencer’s invitation as, “akin to bringing a leader of the Klan or ISIS to the school.” (Emphasis added).

In an email with the subject line “Monitoring Spencer stuff,” Truman State staff circulated a student’s personal Facebook post that summarized a conversation with the University’s Interfaith Center. The student wrote –

Interfaith Center just sent me this: “I am very happy to inform you of two things we are doing to support the other side of this argument. Student Affairs has graciously matched the funding that was provided to College Republicans for the Muslim Student Association (MSA). As of today, MSA is bringing in a speaker to talk from 6:30-7:30 about the exploitation of Islam for negative purposes. This event will be at the same location as the Robert Spencer event, but right before.

The other thing that we are doing here at the Interfaith Center is sponsoring an essay writing competition… (Emphasis Added).

Why all of this Matters

Conservative students are being treated differently by administrators. When a conservative student group wanted to bring in a conservative speaker, Truman State administrators went to great lengths to drown out the conservative viewpoint. Taxpayer-funded universities should be a marketplace of ideas where research, expression, and debate are encouraged. Selectively demanding academic balance only when a conservative viewpoint is presented, but not also when a leftist viewpoint is presented, is indoctrination, not balance.